A Perspective on Life

by Shane Arbogast

           You know, I would like to start off by stating that I have always thought that I have had a solid grasp on my thoughts and opinions about life and death, and how they coincide and are necessary in the evolution of any species. For many years, I have not given any reconsideration to how I viewed things, never questioned myself or thought that there were any other significant aspects to the great wonder of life and death. As foolish of a way of thinking that may have been, it was what it was and I was content with it. At least I was until my wife and I decided to breed our pedigree Shih Tzu, Bella. Unbeknownst to me this decision to embark on an unknown journey would prove to shake up all those solid beliefs and opinions that I had never questioned before. This single event would break my heart, causing me to be left in an unknown plane reaching for help, and nothing was around to take my pleas. This is the story of Gidget.
You may categorize me into the group of animal lovers. I have always had a soft spot in my     heart for the living, and some would say that I have a deep seated passion for animals. I cannot touch on where this connection came from, but I will say this, and I would not change it: I am a better man in this world, credited to the fact that I care for the wellbeing of animals. I have had the Shih Tzu breed in my home for the better part of a decade. I love this breed; the connection that is formulated throughout the upbringing of a Shih Tzu puppy into adult hood forms a bond that is equally shared between the dog and me. Bella, as you might be realizing, is very special to me. She is a beautiful dog that plays a significant role in our family. She demonstrated signs of being able to be an impeccable mother. This was the deciding factor in agreeing to breed her, to allow her to care for her very own puppies. I found a stud service for her, also another pedigreed Shih Tzu. We met and talked about how the process worked. I did much required reading on what to expect and problems to watch out for, and the process began.
After about sixty days into the ninety day pregnancy term, we were questioning if Bella had successfully got pregnant. I asked the other party on how to verify that we had a pregnant dog. She reassured me, and told me to give it another week; the Shih Tzu breed does not normally show until the very end. Well, sure enough, she began to show. Bella was due on January eighteenth this year. We planned for the birth, we took her to her doctor and had an x-ray performed and an ultra sound to see how many puppies she was carrying, and to find out if she would likely have a seamless birth at home in her whelping box. Three puppies is what we were told, with a possibility of four. Satisfied, we were ready, and not to mention, thoroughly excited.
Bella went into labor on an early Friday morning, and she did not begin to actually give birth until that same evening. Unfortunately I was unavailable for the beginning of the event. However, I made it home in time for the fourth puppy to come into the world. This was Gidget. She had not yet acquired her name, but she was the puppy that inspired the writing of this story, as I have now realized is my way of gaining closure and peace of mind. We put Bella and her newborn babies into her crate in our room and went to bed. Exhausted is an understatement for one’s state after the energy and stress of the birthing process. We were all new; none of us knew what to expect. Saturday morning I awoke to the faint sounds of whining puppies. I peered into the crate and said good morning to Bella. She was nursing her pups. With my unfocused vision, and little light in the room I could still very confidently look upon more little puppy bodies then I had initially put in the crate the night before. My wife woke, and asked how the puppies were. I looked up and slightly shrugged. I said, “Well, there are six of them.” She blinked and innocently asked where the other two came from. To this I laughed, and I told her the stork came and left them for Bella. She did not appreciate my humor as much as I did.
The observations were very easily to make, puppy number four had a size disadvantage to the rest of the bunch. Bella let me hold Gidget for brief periods of time, and I was drawn to her drive to be alive. However small she was, you could not tell in her eagerness to nurse. Maybe it was just me, but I could see her as happy and content. The puppy’s eyes and ears do not open until around days ten to fourteen. So they will have a silent couple of weeks before getting to really take in the strange new world that they have been brought into. Neither I nor Gidget could have possibly known that Gidget would never get the chance to open her eyes and look at her own mother or anything else in the world.
By Sunday evening we were picking up on Gidget’s struggles to secure a nipple to nurse for any length of time. The growth rate astonished us, I would lay and watch the puppies feed themselves. I could not believe the kill or be killed mentality that was being played out between these blind and deaf little cute bundles of fur. Gidget was often pushed to the outside of the others, where she began to cry. This was the first painstaking dagger that hit me. I felt compelled to assist Gidget in getting herself a nipple and not letting the others push her away. This my friends, was the first ground breaking hit to my thoughts on life and death. Was it my place to intervene? Should I have just let fate take its course? Was this the natural way things were supposed to happen? I did not care. As selfish as that may be, I would not let her starve. My wife suggested gathering supplies that may be needed to utilize in case we needed to bottle feed Gidget.
Monday morning, the second horrific shock took place. I awoke, and as I began getting ready for work, I walked over to the crate expecting to see the puppies nursing or all snuggling around Bella getting there much needed rest. What I looked down upon was terrifying, Gidget had been shoved clear across the crate. Alone, and so cold that I did not think she was alive. I picked her up and put her against my chest. As Gidget whined and moved, relieving my anxiety of her not being with us any longer, anger filled inside of me. I glared at Bella. How could she be so cruel, how could she just not care about her own blood? At this point we decided to remove Gidget from the bunch and began bottle feeding her and lying her on a heated rice bag. She bounced back within hours from her traumatic night. That increase in health however just did not last like we would have liked it to. Whenever we could, we tried to get Gidget to nurse from Bella, and spend time with her siblings. It was this Monday that Gidget acquired her name from my wife. I came home and she told me she named her Gidget. I was weary to say the least when I learned about Gidget receiving her name. How was I supposed to transition the very real scenario of Gidget not making it? I blocked that out of my head; I could not think that way. That was like me giving up on her while she was still trying so hard to be loved.

This fragile dance went on with Gidget all through Monday night and Tuesday. She actually was accepted by Bella Monday night and slept within her warmth well into Tuesday. Despite this glimmer of hope her health was trending in the other direction. Gidget had stopped putting effort into suckling on the bottle. She just did not possess the energy to take in the nutrients she desperately needed. This paradox infuriated me. The problem, in my eyes, was so simple. The solutions were endless, this puppy would survive, and I could fix this. I mean, this is what I do for a living: I fix things. Gidget needed me.